It’s not fair! The Literature Review penalty shootout

ball going into the net

Are you gambling with the success of your literature review?

Are you leaving things to chance? Are you letting fate decide what will happen in the end? Are you letting control slip away, week after week without you even realising it? Is your literature review like a game of football (soccer).

Football? What?

So Europe is in the grip of an international football (soccer) competition at the moment. Euro 2012 is being played in Poland and the Ukraine by international football teams from all over Europe. I’m a football fan so I’ve been watching most of the games. I’m also a bit of a geek and I realised that there is a parallel between the beautiful game and the literature review.

You’ve got to be joking…

Actually no. There is a huge parallel between the literature review and football, specifically football that is played in knockout tournaments like Euro 2012. It’s all about the way games are decided. It’s all about the dreaded penalty shootout.


In most football knockout tournaments, teams play a full game (90 minutes). If a winner is not decide then an extra 30 minutes are played. Following this extra time, if there still isn’t a winner, teams go to the penalty shootout. This is where five players from each team take turns to try and score a goal from close range.


This week I saw England get knocked out on penalties (yet again) and yesterday, Spain went through the the final of the competition by beating Portugal in a penalty shoot out. It is excruciating to watch your team go out of a competition on penalties. You feel cheated. It’s not fair. There is so much pressure on the players and it’s never a true reflection of how the game actually went. However penalty shoot outs serve an important purpose, to finish the game and decide a winner. This is where the parallel with the literature review lies. Imagine you are playing football against your literature review.

YOU against the literature review – THE FINAL

So when preparing for a game, you will find out about your opponent, make a plan and devise tactics to beat them. You know that you have a time frame to do this in. This is GREAT NEWS! In footballing terms, the literature review is a pushover. I mean a really easy opponent. It might seem difficult at first but it never changes its tactics and has no skilled players. If you develop a good plan of attack, you should be able to wipe the floor with the literature review, leaving well and truly beaten by the end of the game. Extra time? Forget it, you don’t need extra time with the literature review, it’s THAT easy. With the right tactics, you have more than enough skill to do it.

The tragedy

But you didn’t do it. For what ever reason you were complacent and you didn’t win the game. You couldn’t score the decisive goal, not even in extra time. You had all the tactics in place but you couldn’t make it count. You didn’t finish it off.

Advantage Literature Review

Then you get to penalties and tactics go out of the window. You are under so much pressure that the
opponent (literature review) actually has an advantage. This is what it feels like to leave your literature review until the last minute. If you leave it too late, you’re under a ton of pressure and you cannot possibly produce your best work. You cannot use your plans and your using all your energy just to stay alive.


So I suppose the lesson is, don’t leave your literature review until the last minute (Tweet This). If you do then you will lose any chance to display your real ability and talent. Give yourself plenty of time to make a game plan and to beat the literature review in normal time. Give yourself a chance to show what your actually capable of.


If you like this article please leave a comment or give me a quick tweet. If you hate football, I apologise but I would like to hear from you too :)